What can be said about the anticipated anti-abortion decision from the US Supreme Court that hasn’t been said already? From a civil rights and social justice perspective, the reasoning in Justice Alito’s draft opinion is dangerous. It presages and exemplifies anti-democratic tendencies already present and vigorous on the American right. There are many “rights” that are not mentioned explicitly in the Constitution. Even though Alito’s draft says the decision should not be used as precedent in restricting other rights, the effort is already underway to do so. These include privacy, LGBT rights, the rights of people with disabilities, and the education of non-citizen children in public schools. And of course, the rights of women, educational rights, and the right to housing, to eat, and to live in a clean environment. Although we hear about it relatively little, the Equal Rights Amendment has never been added to the Constitution. However, there are many laws from Congress on protecting women, people with disabilities, and the environment. Women’s health advocates want Congress to pass similar laws protecting abortion. This is unlikely to occur, with the close division between the parties in the Senate, and the likely loss of Democratic House seats in the mid-term election. In addition, the Supreme Court can overturn acts of Congress if they believe the laws are not rooted in the Constitution.
Nothing stops a conservative Supreme Court from declaring that statutes that provide rights not mentioned in the Constitution are not constitutional. Even school integration, required by Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, can be declared bad law. The Supreme Court has already pulled the teeth of the Voting Rights Act, making voter suppression easier, and already provided religious rights mentioned nowhere in the Constitution. In an act of supreme hypocrisy, the Court has enabled Christian believers, organizations, and corporations to impose their beliefs on others. The Constitution, in its mention of the separation of church and state, nowhere permits such imposition. And of course the Court has protected and enhanced only extreme Christian beliefs, leaving out the many other religions and their belief sets. Another example is gun rights, where the Constitution refers to a “well-regulated militia,” but the federal courts studiously ignore this phrase, and let unregulated shooters run rampant.
Although the accusation has perhaps been overused, these tendencies of the rightwing are very similar to the tenets of fascism. When democracy is eroded, the vacancy invites in fascism, anarchy, libertarianism or communism. Social media does sometimes feel like anarchy, and with Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, it will probably feel more like libertarianism. We’re already seeing the victory of libertarianism in the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana growing and use. The Supreme Court, if it was consistent, could do some good in doing away with some bad old court decisions, such as the one from 1911 that declared that corporations are people. But we cannot expect consistency from this Court. They are ideologically driven.
The descent into fascism is part of a larger trend toward the manifestation of evil in society. Elements include too many guns, lying, hypocrisy, conspiracy thinking, hate, misogyny, xenophobia, antisemitism, homophobia, ablism, and racism. Trump, the Antichrist, manifests all of these. His followers enable and support him. We are observing in the Ukraine what can happen when a regime like communism is replaced with fascism—genocide, mass murder, crimes against humanity. And recall that Trump worships Putin.
What prevents that from happening in the United States? Already we’ve heard from some scholars that civil war could occur in the US. Recall that we had a civil war here, in which the nominally losing side fought to preserve slavery and the benefits it drew from slavery. But the Confederacy did not really lose. Rather, it morphed into domestic terrorism and guerilla warfare, through the KKK, White Citizens Councils, Jim Crow laws, lynching, redlining, etc. Now those with nostalgia for slavery wish to enslave women, LGBT people, and immigrants. The enablers include those who vote against their self-interest, such as the 52% of white women who voted for Trump, the half of people with disabilities who vote Republican, and the increasing number of Hispanic men who vote Republican. We who have tried to educate people about civil rights and social justice have made some very bad mistakes, including telling people they should not just vote their self-interest. Unfortunately, we were listened to, and many people today vote their conscience of conspiracy and their warped moral judgments. A marginally more moral and ethical case can be made for anti-abortion if those on the right were to guarantee healthcare, education, housing, and food for all children. And to clamp down hard on men who rape, who commit incest, who do not support the children they have been instrumental into bringing into the world, who do not support the women they have forced into childbearing.
What is to be done? Marching and demonstrating don’t help much. Signing petitions has almost no effect. Only a few actions will help much, including voting for liberal and progressive Democrats all up and down the ballot, and contributing money to their campaigns. Some actions are almost guaranteed not to help, such as racial, sexual, and LGBT essentialism. Manifestations of this include the idea that unless you look like me and have my preferences, I don’t want you as an ally. We see other “shoot yourself in the foot” phenomena such as the belief among some progressives that merit does not exist. We see extreme manifestations of rights such as insisting that transgender minors can use the bathroom of their choice, the idea of “neurodiversity,” and the imposition of required ethnic studies programs in public schools while the pandemic has set educational attendance and achievement back by two years. In an ideal world, all these concepts might be marginally good, but we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in a world under extreme threat and real and present danger. The movement against the right to abortion and women’s health care is yet another area of discrimination against women, added to existing disparities such as lack of pay comparable to men, the glass ceiling in employment, and lack of pay for work that mostly women provide, such as daycare.
Awhile back, I was researching a project on how to draw some Trump voters back toward the political center. I asked the question, and added a second one, roughly should progressives and liberals negotiate and/or compromise with those on the right? I received such angry feedback from progressives that I stopped asking the second question. If no compromise is possible, then we may well end up with two Americas—one a democracy and one a fascist empire. In addition to what we are already seeing as many women flee to states where abortion is legal and available, we may see “democracy refugees” of African-Americans making a new journey to the North.